Wisdom for each day:
Monday: Am I good at listening?
The writer of Proverbs writes “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.” (Prov 18:13) James picks up on this maxim with regards to anger. It is so often the case within relationships that we are quick to be offended; to lash out before we have truly understood what the other person is saying or why indeed they are saying it. James advice is such wise counsel and with God’s help we can practise and learn to be better listeners. It could be that many arguments would be avoided if only we took the time to truly listen and understand. Consider and pray about how you might practise listening to others today.
Tuesday: What is my anger telling me?
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:26 “In your anger do not sin.” Anger in and of itself is not sin. In actual fact, it is a sign that a goal that we have has been blocked. Either it has been blocked by someone else or by circumstances around us. Take for example the golfer who plans to go golfing on a particular day and his plans are thwarted because of rain; he feels angry. Now compare that to a farmer who finds himself rejoicing because of that same rain. Two different people, two different goals with the very same circumstances experience very different emotions. When we feel anger we have an opportunity to stop and reflect upon our goal and why that goal is so important to us. It is then that we can stop anger in it’s tracks from causing us to behave in a way that might be sinful. Today when you feel angry, consider what that emotion is telling you about your goals? Are those goals godly goals or are they idols?
Wednesday: Is my faith working?
I have met so many people, young and old who genuinely believe that they will go to heaven because they are good people. And the truth is that they are generally good people. Sadly however they have a “faith in their own works” rather than a “faith that works”. There is a distinct difference. Faith in their own works people trust in their ability to live moral lives in order to gain God’s approval however faith that works people know that they have God’s approval because of Christ and therefore are free to live for Him and with Him. The later leads to a transformed life; a life that loves what Jesus loves and does what Jesus does. The former only leads to pride and self-deception.
Thursday: Do I know who I am?
James uses the metaphor that the person who only listens to the word but doesn’t do what it says is like a person who glances in the mirror, walks away and immediately forgets what they look like. In other words, the truth of who they are has not imprinted in their mind and heart. James is reminding us that for those who believe in Jesus, we have a new identity – we are children of God. In the reality of our modern world with it’s pressures, media, voices and busyness it is possible for us to forget our face, our true identity. To be people who say one thing but do another. Living incoherently and inconsistently. James answer is to “look into” the perfect law. This “look into” is not a cursary glance like the man in the mirror but a sustained pouring into – he means for us to allow the word of God to read us; to be our true mirror that tells us who we are and how we ought to live. How do you allow the word of God to be a mirror for you in your life?
Friday: Do I have others who are helping me to live out my faith?
Frog mentioned on sunday how John Wesley and his friends would gather together regularly for accountability and to champion one another to better their relationship with God. They were both incredibly intentional and vulnerable in their discipleship group having a list of 21 questions they would ask each other. The first three on the list were:
1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
3. Can I be trusted?
God has given us three things to help us grow in our relationship with God and the daily living out of our faith. He has given us His word, His Spirit and His people. Is there someone that asks you the deep questions about your life?
Saturday: Do I understand the Father’s heart?
James refers to God as our Father twice in chapter 1. The first time is in relation to him wanting to give us wisdom (v5) and the second is in relation to how he has shared his nature with us when he brought us forth as his children (v18). James is reminding us of the true nature of our relationship with God and that he relates to us like a father to their child. A good father is not only involved in bringing a child’s life into being but is concerned for how that child might truly flourish and live in the world that they have entered into. This is God’s heart for us. He doesn’t just want us to exist but to flourish in our existence. Do you understand God’s fatherly heart towards you?